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Do Teenage White Females Understand Their Privilege?

Last Saturday, I went to Tout Suite to indulge in their infamous brunch and do some leisure reading. As I approached, four young white women stopped to take selfies, bare-shouldered and Birkenstocked. I stood patiently waiting for them to either finish or notice they were blocking me. Eventually, they politely let me pass. I walked into Tout Suite and was struck by the privilege I afforded them. One they didn’t even know they had. They had a luxury most minority girls don’t. In their aloofness and adolescent frivolity, they had been privileged with innocence. This innocence, that made them not a blockade, but just teens being teens. This innocence, that if something happened to them, they would automatically be victims. This innocence, that frees them to be nonspeculative of the world around them. It was a careless and free innocence.

I hadn’t ever noticed it before. I wasn’t angry or upset with these girls. As I settled into my book, I watched them. Lingering in front of the case of desserts, unaware of the line behind them. No one tempting to urge them or hurry them. They took selfies in front of everything. Older couples looked upon them and smiled. One spilled their drink, and several people stopped to help this damsel.

I don’t want to spend much more time discussing these 4 white adolescent females. I cannot speak on their assumed innocence. Rather, I was heartbroken for my own. I work with a predominantly African-American community. I spend a substantial amount of time with black girls. We talk. We laugh. We cry. We do each other’s hair. When I look at them they are innocent girls, but I know the world does not see them this way. Black girls don’t get the luxury of innocence. My girls get hyper-sexualized earlier. I don’t know if it is hitting puberty earlier or the commodifying language we use with black skin. All, I know you never hear anyone saying about little white girls, “Your skin is like a yummy dollop of mashed potatoes”, but there lives a level of impurity and “chocolate sinfulness” in a black girls’ skin.

Those 4 girls, were allowed to be free, and the world accommodated that.

Perhaps, history or society or a blend of the two has placed a filter on the innocence of the black girlhood. Recently, a study was released discussing the Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood. It is a good read. It is pretty spot on. I agree not only based on my experiences but the experiences of my girls.

I don’t know where is post is meant to go. I have thought about this for a week. It makes me scared for black girls. Worse, if there is little innocence to be given to black girls. I cannot imagine the consequences for black women.

Actually, I can…

God help us.

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Race, Beauty, and Hope

The predominant culture suggests normative black features are not attractive. Because of this in the dating realm, black women finish dead last. OKCupid has a study affirming this. While, it is not explicitly stated: “men find black women unattractive”. My assumption is that they don’t. Rounded noses and darker skin are not particularly “in”. Full lips are currently “in” but as a trend. Like thick brows are “in”.

In the past seven days, I have had two conversations with a friend about race and beauty and attraction. They are hard conversations. Not only for the content, but we are distinguishable by both race and gender. Which is not bad, but often you have to explain things that may be inherent to a person who was black and/or a female. Though difficult, I find the conversations refreshing. I process things through them. This blog is not so much about the feelings of unattractiveness or the conversations had with my friend. However, both serve as a black drop to something significant that took place on a warm Saturday afternoon.

I was sitting my Houston mom’s hair salon playing with my cousins. Which is a sight. I’m an African-American and my mom and cousins are white. She takes a break from doing hair. I sit in the chair and my 12-year-old cousin begins pampering me with a massage. It was legit. My 9-year-old cousin comes over and begins to look at my hair. She politely asks if she can touch it.

“Yes. Thank you for asking.”

She continually says how soft and fluffy it is. Fascinated, she gets some Morrocan oil and places it on my hair. Over the course of the next 20 minutes, I have my shoulders and arms massaged, my hair oiled and brushed, and my looks affirmed in a really special way.

What makes this interaction so distinguishable from others, is that my sweet cousins whose skin is so much lighter than mine, think I am beautiful. Not for a black person, but as a person who God created. While, they are old enough to know we look different, there was not this elitism in them. I sit on the couch and my 9-year-old cousin snuggles up with me. She looks at my lips and calls them pretty.

I wish my lips were bigger like yours.” She pouts trying to make them bigger.

“I think your lips are perfect for the face God gave you.” 

The rest of our time is spent snuggling on the couch catching naps at 2 in the afternoon. I don’t know how these sweet children learned to love diversity at such a young age, but it gives me hope.

There is a coming day where there will be no narrative of black women being unattractive. Because our biased expressions and representations of beauty will disappear. Humanity will understand that our racial diversity, our various nose shapes and hair textures, our crooked smiles and pearly whites, our physical differences scream of a divine Creator who loves and revels in variety and in diversity. Who loves the porcelain skin of Scandinavians, the almond eyes of Asians, the raven black tresses of Native-Americans, the warm skin of Latinos, and the rounded noses of African people. I felt that hope today.

I felt that hope today.

It was beautiful.

White Trash Christmas Party

I have no qualms about wearing clothes other people have worn, especially if they are stupendously discounted. This is the reason I am completely drawn to thrift shopping. One of the best thrift shops in Houston is Buffalo Exchange. They have unknown brands; they have designer labels. Most importantly to me they have it for cheap. Buffalo Exchange draws in an eclectic crowd of people. However, yesterday I was quite surprised to see four upper middle class women in their forties shopping at thrift shop.

I passed them walking towards the sweater rack. One of the four women holds up a pair of shorts and exclaimed, “These are perfect.” I am nosy so I glanced over and thought, “Those are inappropriate.” I collected nine items I wanted to try on and went into the dressing room. The four women were also trying on their future purchases. From my room one of them gasps, “That outfit is spot on…” Again I’m nosy, especially when it comes to people putting great outfits together, I peek out of the curtain to catch a glimpse of said outfit. As my eyes lock in on it, the women finishes her sentence, “…for the WHITE TRASH CHRISTMAS PARTY!” I could not even imagine. I’m not white, but I was offended.

Blame it on the ridiculous amount of social documentaries I’ve been watching. Perhaps, it is my maturing views on race and culture and poverty and their intersecting points. But, that these women would throw a Christmas party and the theme is white trash is jaw dropping. Let’s be honest though, if twenty years younger these would be the same white female college students throwing racially themed sorority parties.

I think what gets me the most in all of this. Is that they are acknowledging that they describe people as trash and in turn attempt to mock them. This described white trash, do you think that they dress in the manner they do by choice? Even if people in poverty had access to name brands do you think for a second they would be able to afford them? But let’s be real here, America has a culture where we ascribe value to people based on how they look, not on the contents of their character. We are the most shallow nation in the world. Then we go to the larger issue of describing people as trash. Let’s look at genocides in history. They all began with the notion that groups of people should be valued as lesser than human because of some non-sensible opinion-based notion. People have been described as rats, cockroaches, scum, dirt, insects, and inadvertently trash. And because enough people saw them this way they were treated this way. Eventually, they were massacred. American government don’t think of yourself as too high and mighty. Ignoring the historical mistakes of slavery and racially motivated incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War 2, we treat our poorest like trash. By binding them with a paper pushing system rather than creating avenues for people in the lowest rungs to both be productive and be supported. Our nation kills our poor by depriving them.

You know it is not that I hate America. It is not even about disliking these women. I just have a problem with labeling people as trash when it is an issue of poverty.

Bunnies, Racism, and All Things Cute and Cuddly

***This blog post while not vulgar may be offensive. Please know it was not written for offense, but for clarity and understanding. My intentions were not to harm, but to open up a discussion with a stating of my perspective*** (more…)